Eating Adventures

Can't Decide Where to Dine for Denver Restaurant Week? Let Us Help!

The Family Jones Spirit House is one of Denver Restaurant Week's newest participants.
The Family Jones Spirit House is one of Denver Restaurant Week's newest participants. Mark Antonation

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The Kitchen
1530 16th Street
303-623-3127
$35, Restaurant Week Menu

When it opened its doors on the west end of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall in 2004, the Kitchen had ambitions. Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson envisioned creating a gathering place that would draw from local farms to give diners well-executed but simple dishes — comfort food, but lighter, healthier and better sourced. Musk and Matheson took their mission to the Boulder community, too, engaging with school gardens to teach kids where food comes from. That first Kitchen has since spawned an empire that includes additional outlets of the original concept, plus the faster, more casual Next Door chain and the wood-fired Hedge Row. As the company grows, it plants the seeds of change in the communities it enters, setting up partnerships with local schools and farms before it breaks ground. The ambition of that first place still burns, though: Musk and Matheson are intent on upending the American food system, using the power of their eateries to do it.

Linger
2030 W. 30th Avenue
303-993-3120
$35, Restaurant Week Menu

First came Root Down, chef Justin Cucci’s uber-hip eatery built in a former service station in LoHi. While the reclaimed and upcycled decor and worldly small plates, many of them vegetarian, blew minds back in 2008, they did little to prepare us for Linger, which opened three years later in the Olinger Mortuary building. An international menu mapped out by continent (complete with crackly Indian dosas, hangover ramen and German currywurst) and a theme to match the surroundings (cocktails listed on toe tags, tables built from gurneys, water served in apothecary bottles) made Linger stand out immediately. Although development has blocked much of the splendid view from the rooftop bar/deck, Linger’s continued dedication to sustainable practices and carefully sourced ingredients have kept the restaurant at the top of the list of dining destinations in this city.

Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder Street
720-570-8686
$45, Restaurant Week Menu

Yes, we know it’s odd that the city’s best chicken-fried steak is served by Lola, which added the words “coastal Mexican” to its name a few years back. But that’s just one of the reasons we love this restaurant, whose move to the renovated Olinger Mortuary in LoHi a decade ago helped turn the area into a hot dining destination. Other reasons to love Lola: the expansive tequila bar and delicious house margs, the tableside guacamole service, the taco-filled happy hour, the fresh oysters, the inventive specials, and the basement space that could be the best party space in town. Our favorite spot here, though, is the enclosed deck, a lovely place for a solitary drinker to soak up the last days of summer or a group of pals to fortify themselves against the wintry night ahead.

Mister Tuna
3033 Brighton Boulevard
303-831-8862
$35,
Restaurant Week Menu
Troy Guard has channeled his hybrid Pacific Rim/Mediterranean/Latin style through many venues since landing in Denver in the early 2000s. But at Mister Tuna, which opened in RiNo in 2016, it all comes together: his childhood in Hawaii, time under fusion powerhouse Roy Yamaguchi, and a career absorbing Rocky Mountain influences. The result is a smashing combo of wood-fired cooking where meats and whole fish absorb notes of smoke; raw and cooked seafood capturing the spirit of Hawaii and Japan; and a smattering of fresh-made pastas that convey the Southwest and Italy with equal aplomb. Add homages to Guard’s pop and mom (in the name and dining-room mural, respectively), and Mister Tuna feels like an eatery with a genuine heart.

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There's always something porky at Old Major.
Scott Lentz
Old Major
3316 Tejon Street
720-420-0622
$45, Restaurant Week Menu

Pork was trendy and bacon sizzled everywhere when chef Justin Brunson opened Old Major in the up-and-coming LoHi neighborhood in 2013. But Brunson went beyond bacon, instituting a cured-meats program that followed difficult and time-consuming old-world methods. And while meat still stars on the plates — especially the continuously evolving Nose to Tail entree — served in the rough-hewn dining room that reflects the chef’s personality, respect is also given to seasonal produce and foraged ingredients. Old Major is named for a famous swine from the American literary canon, but the menu transcends pork with enough variety to make the restaurant a Denver classic.

Osteria Marco
1453 Larimer Street
303-534-5855
$25, Restaurant Week Menu

Frank Bonanno followed up his posh Mizuna and Luca in Governor’s Park with Osteria Marco, a more festive Italian eatery in a basement space on Larimer Square. In 2007, things like burrata, housemade salumi and Sunday pig roasts weren’t part of the Italian-restaurant lexicon in Denver, but Bonanno made them household phrases, serving less common regional dishes alongside pizza and panini to help demystify the more esoteric side of the cuisine. Everything seemed to be ready for bare-hands eating, the food washed down with Italian beers and something called a Negroni. These days, Denverites swill Campari-based cocktails by the carafe and ask for the provenance of their white orb of burrata — all thanks in part to Osteria Marco.

Root Down
1600 West 33rd Avenue
303-993-420
$35, Restaurant Week Menu

When Root Down opened in an old garage in 2009, it immediately took off, establishing chef/owner Justin Cucci as one of the top restaurant design talents in the city. The conversion drew on automotive and blue-collar concepts without being cheesy: rolled-up garage doors, a bar top made from a bowling alley lane, mid-century modern flourishes, artwork that channels a car-focused past. In fact, Root Down looks so good that it would still attract people even if the food were an afterthought — but Cucci’s vision for his menu was just as assertive: The kitchen puts out such big-flavored mashups as carbonara risotto, ratatouille salad and a vegetarian charcuterie board. Drinks are similarly sexed up, and brunch here is one of the most popular in town, with dishes like Vietnamese almond pancakes and fried chicken with goat-cheese biscuits. The menu is particularly vegetarian-friendly; nearly half of Root Down’s dishes are either vegetarian already or can easily be modified.

Spuntino
2639 West 32nd Avenue
303-433-0949
$35, Restaurant Week Menu

Chef Cindhura Reddy and her husband, Elliot Strathmann, took over Spuntino from John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom in 2014, adding their own personal touches to the intimate Italian eatery. Today hand-rolled pastas and braised meats are the stars, while goat from El Regalo Ranch and creamy arancini (sometimes with Hatch chiles) have become signature items. At the bar, Strathmann has amassed a collection of Italian amari, the bitter after-dinner spirits (including several versions he makes himself) that give diners one more reason to linger. Spuntino is the neighborhood hangout that every neighborhood wishes it had.

Steuben's
517 East 17th Avenue, 303-830-1001
7355 Ralston Road, Arvada. 303-830-1001
Restaurant Week Menus: $35 at Uptown and $25 at Arvada

When Steuben’s shimmied into Uptown in 2006, it filled a void in Denver dining that the city hadn’t realized existed. Owners Josh and Jen Wolkon channeled the neighborhood diners so essential to communities of yesteryear, updating the concept for the modern world. So while Steuben’s offers classic American fare — cheeseburgers and fries, pot roasts and macaroni and cheese, milkshakes and egg creams — it’s honed the execution so that the dishes are nostalgic yet well made, with elevated ingredients. Even more elevated are such items as the skirt steak with chimichurri, excellent Nashville hot chicken, an award-winning green-chile cheeseburger, and a Boston-worthy lobster roll. A kid-friendly place that’s also friendly for adults, Steuben’s offered one of the first high-end cocktail programs in Colorado, and it continues to turn out perfect classics and fun inventions that match its vibe — loud, energetic and a little rock-and-roll. The second location, in Arvada, has more diner flavor, along with such breakfast fare as biscuits and gravy.

Stoic & Genuine
1701 Wynkoop Street
303-640-3474
$45, Restaurant Week Menu

With Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme under their belts, Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch made it a foursome in 2014 with Stoic & Genuine, the oddly named but well-appointed seafood bar inside the refurbished Union Station. Gleaming oysters from both coasts, including special Stoic & Genuine varieties grown just for the restaurant, and crudos, ceviches and fillets draw seafood lovers with their unparalleled freshness, while playful interpretations of tuna melts, Reubens (salmon-based, of course) and other delights (like the miniature sand pails — complete with tiny spades — used as salt cellars) make for a lively lunch or a serious supper. Every detail is planned out, whether it’s the housemade sodas in happy-hour mixed drinks or the granitas in exotic flavors that top mollusks on the half shell. And for those looking for something a little more cowtown, the burger rates as one of the best in Denver.

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Table 6 is back for Restaurant Week.
Danielle Lirette
Table 6
609 Corona Street
303-831-8800
$35, Restaurant Week Menu
There have been many changes at Table 6 since the cozy eatery opened in 2004, but after Aaron Forman took over in 2008, you knew you could count on finding not just an excellent meal, but hospitality that imparts a true sense of belonging. While chefs have come and gone, the menu has remained eclectic and often whimsical, without ever seeming too clever for its own good. A surprising wine list, an amazing brunch and Forman’s stellar collection of ties and sport coats have endeared the eatery not just to the neighborhood, but to all Denver diners in the know, with barely a slip over the years.

Vesta
1822 Blake Street
303-296-1970
$35, Restaurant Week Menu

Vesta is a Denver icon, a pioneering LoDo restaurant that’s become a neighborhood staple. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t evolved: Last year, two decades after Josh and Jen Wolkon first opened the restaurant, they gave it a significant refresh, dispensing with the "dipping grill" theme that had anchored the concept and been part of its name. They kept the sleek interior, the dramatic bar and the focus on bold flavors, built from marrying global inspiration into one seasonal menu. Vesta’s well-honed food (which still includes a multitude of optional dipping sauces) means the restaurant remains special-occasion-worthy, but it’s also mellowed into a good place to find yourself on a weeknight with a bowl of cioppino and a glass of wine.
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